As humans, we love certainty because it makes us feel like we’re in control. Control is like a warm fuzzy safety blanket for us. And it doesn’t make you (or me) a control freak, it just means you want to know that you are safe. It’s human nature.
We all want to feel secure and safe.
So what happens when we lose that feeling of control and life as we know it becomes uncertain?
Well, unfortunately, that’s where we are today. We are smack in the middle of a new reality, living through a pandemic.
A few weeks ago I went on Instagram and I asked people how they were doing. I asked how their life has changed since this pandemic started. If they were struggling, how they were feeling, and what’s on their minds every day.
I wanted to know because, during the years of working with stress and trauma, I knew many people were already feeling overwhelmed before all of this happened.
Before COVID-19 hit us, people were already struggling, stressed, and having anxiety from everything else going on in their lives. Then add this deadly virus and uncertainty of the future to the mix… that’s a lot for anyone to deal with.
But what I’ve learned over the years is this.
The reason why we struggle so much during uncertain times is not because of what’s happening in the world around us– of course, it matters and it impacts us— but the reason why we struggle so much is because of what we’ve been taught by today’s society.
I believe we live in two separate ecosystems; the one around us as part, or even a puzzle piece of this world. And second, the ecosystem within us.
We are teeny tiny particles that create a whole being of existence.
But our modern world, our new way of living is neither one of them. Maybe we should call it our third ecosystem because it is the system we live in today.
The scary part is that this system is built in a way that makes us lose control while feeling in control.
To make our lives easier, yes, but it has also made us super dependent. Most of our basic needs for survival are dependent on it.
Like the way we get our food, or the way we make money, our homes, the way we exercise, take care of our mental health, and even our relationships.
All the things we depend on today are things we can’t control.
We have built a false sense of security and certainty in what we, at the end of the day, have no power over.
So… am I saying that you should break the system and become fully self-sustainable right now while you are feeling like crap and don’t even know when you’ll see money in your account again?
Maybe you’re even thinking, “Oh gee, thanks, Mandy. Thanks for telling me this when I’m already in a pit hole that I have no clue how to get out of. Let me just turn back time so I can fully prepare myself for this pandemic. Hold on. Oh wait, I don’t have a time machine. Thanks for nothing.”
(Can you tell I enjoy coming up with dialogs in my head?)
Anyhow… no. I do not expect you to find a time machine so you can work on your pandemic survival skills. However, I do expect you to start paying attention to where you place your feeling of certainty and control.
What do I mean by that? I mean don’t put all your eggs in someone else’s basket. Don’t give away your power, your control, your sense of self to what you have no influence over. Don’t depend on anyone or anything else to feel certain, find that certainty in yourself.
Sounds too easy and fluffy? Maybe even cheesy?! Let me share a story with you.
About four years ago, right around this time of year, I was living in an abusive marriage. I had no clue how to get out, he kept me locked inside and would drag me back when I tried to escape. I had no idea how to get myself out of it. He had manipulated me into thinking I was too weak to make it out of there alive.
But one day something inside of me shifted. All of sudden I knew that the only way, the only chance of an escape would be if I got myself out of feeling powerless. And if I didn’t do that, I would stand no chance of making it out. I knew I had to gather the strength inside of me. I had to trust in my ability to survive and overcome this. For months, years, I had waited for someone to hear me and call the police. I had waited for my ex to have a sudden realization or epiphany of what he was doing and stop. But that day never came.
All that did was keeping me stuck in a dangerous situation. The actions (or lack of) from my neighbors and my abuser were out of my control.
I knew I could only control how strong I felt inside of my body and soul.
I could only control the trust and certainty I felt in myself.
I am willing to bet that you have done that at some point in your life. At some point in your life, you’ve been uncertain and moved forward anyway. Even when you didn’t know what was going to happen.
If you are disagreeing with me right now, we are going to do a little exercise towards the end so just stick with me, ok?!
But back to my story. After I escaped… I didn’t have money, a home, or a family close by where I could go to heal and take my time. And I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this because I want you to think,
“well heck, if she could get herself out of that, then I can get myself out of this.”
I pushed myself to change my mindset because I couldn’t afford to stay stuck. Just how you can’t afford to stay where you are now.
I didn’t have time to try to figure out the “how.” My only option was to take a step forward, any step forward, and trust that I would find the answers in the process somehow.
So if you are in deep trouble right now or you are freaking out because you don’t know what’s gonna happen or what you should do.
You have to start believing in yourself. You have to start trusting that you got your back.
When you do that, you give the power back to yourself and you start to think more clearly. And when you think more clearly, your brain starts to actively try to find solutions.
Or maybe we should say that you see a solution because maybe the solution has been there all along. Maybe you’ve just been blinded by the fear of the uncertainty to see it.
From the small day-to-day things to big life-changing decisions. Our whole lives are about constantly coming up with solutions to what we should do. But if we feel like we have lost our power. That we have no control over our lives and everything is uncertain. Then we can’t focus on anything else. If we feel like we’ve lost control of our lives, we get stuck.
I know you were expecting some profound magical solution like ‘jump up and down while touching your nose and spinning clockwise 10 times and you will find the answers to all your problems’ but no.
This simple but also tough mind shift– that’s it. That’s what’s going to take you from being stuck behind those walls of anxiety and doubt, to getting out there and figuring things out. Making things happen for yourself.
You might be thinking, “well that’s easier said than done. I can’t just suck it up and shift my mindset just like that, I can barely focus on reading this darn article.”
Yes, you are right. It is easier said than done. It’s hard and it sucks but you have to take a step. You have to take any step towards putting yourself back in that driver seat.
For most of your life (I’m guessing,) you’ve been living by this thought that certainty is in your job, your relationships, and whatever else you define yourself with.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends who’ve said they could never do what I do (start their own business) because they “need” the certainty and security of a 9 to 5 job. Only to lose that job months (or a year) later because of some reason that was out of their control.
Or the certainty of marriage, for example. Raise your hand if you had a divorce.
You can’t tell but I’m raising mine.
You just never know what’s going to happen. That’s part of life and that’s okay. You should take risks and you should put yourself out there but if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. Because you trust yourself to always move forward.
You can love someone with all of your heart and build a life with them. You can devote yourself to a job you love to do. I’m not telling you you have to go through your life alone as a one-woman show, absolutely not.
You just have to understand that there’s a difference between putting your certainty in someone or something else that you can’t control, versus putting it in yourself.
That means if something happens, if life happens; maybe a relationship ends, or you lose your job, or whatever it is. Yes, you will get hurt but deep inside of you, you will know that you will be okay.
You will know that you can move forward. And if you trust yourself that you can always pick yourself back up, then you will take more risks. And taking more risks means you have a higher chance of getting whatever it is you dream about.
The chance of you getting what you want will definitely be higher than if you stay stuck. So, instead of hiding and hoping the world will come back to normal again and this was just a nightmare…
Instead of feeling defeated and powerless, feel confident knowing that you can get back up no matter how hard you get hit.
As long as you have the certainty in yourself then you will never feel like you’ve lost control of your life.
You might have lost something, but never yourself.
You can do it, I know you can but you need to trust that as well.
I want you to grab a piece of paper or your notebook right now. Go ahead, go get it.
Now think back to times in your life that were uncertain for you but you pushed through anyway.
Write all of them down. Write down what happened but most of all, how you felt.
Do you remember the transition of feeling powerless, confused, maybe overwhelmed, to feeling empowered?
Can you remember the shift from feeling uncertain to certain?
If you feel like you’ve never had one of those moments in your life then you are not giving yourself enough credit.
If you are a grown adult and you’ve lived on this planet with the rest of us, you have for sure gone through uncertainty before.
What was it?
Was it ending a relationship, was it taking a chance on a relationship, was it a college decision, was it the uncertainty of picking the right major, going after a job, deciding to make a career change, make some lifestyle change- write down anything you can come up with.
I can not make you feel the certainty that I feel inside of myself but I can help you make you feel your own.
This is it. Don’t ignore this exercise and say it’s dumb and pointless, just do it.
Do you think you will get yourself out of the situation you are in now by beating yourself up, telling yourself you can’t do it and cursing what happened to you? I’m guessing no.
Do the work and you will find that feeling of trust and certainty in yourself again. Make it a non-negotiable.
And let me know how it goes and how you’re doing.
YOU GOT THIS.
Did you know I have free resources that you can get?
One is to help you get clear of what it is you want and the other is about daily habits to improve your life.
You can download them here!